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Du Châtelet Prize

The Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics celebrates excellence in philosophy of physics and promotes breadth across the field both historically and philosophically.

The Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics is supported by Duke University in collaboration with Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.

2023

Laws and symmetries in the practice of physics

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Nancy Cartwright’s highly influential book, How the Laws of Physics Lie. In honor of this, we invite submissions addressing the ways laws and symmetries are deployed in the practice of doing physics: in experiment, in theory, and in the interplay between them. The scope is intended to be broad, encompassing the variety of theoretical, practical, and explanatory roles that laws and symmetries play in physics.

 

Winners: Marta Bielinska and Caspar Jacobs for their paper “A Philosophical Introduction to Hidden Symmetries in Physics” 

 

Marta’s and Caspar’s paper investigates examples of so-called “hidden symmetries”, widely used in physics, arguing that such symmetries pose new challenges for philosophical accounts of symmetries and for “symmetry-to-reality” inferences.

 

Marta is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oxford. Before this, she completed, also at the University of Oxford, the MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics (2022) with a dissertation on hidden symmetries, and the BPhil in Philosophy (2021) with a dissertation on spacetime orientability. In addition to her work on foundations of spacetime, she is also interested in philosophical accounts of laws of nature and scientific practice, as well as contemporary ontology. 

 

Caspar is currently a university lecturer at Leiden University. He defended his DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2021 with a dissertation on the interpretation of symmetries in physics. In addition to his work on symmetries, Caspar is also interested in the metaphysics of quantities and early modern history and philosophy of science, especially the work of Du Châtelet.

Committee: Elena Castellani, Nina Emery, Bas van Fraassen, Marc Lange

2022

Descartes' Metaphysical Physics

Winner:

Ovidiu Babeș, “Mixed Mathematics and Metaphysical Physics:

Descartes and the Mechanics of the Flow of Water” 

Committee:

Roger Ariew, Dan Garber, Dana Jalobeanu, Alison Peterman, Sophie Roux

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2021

Measurement practices in the physical sciences: correlation, calibration and stabilization

Winners:

Jamee Elder, “On the ‘direct detection’ of gravitational waves"

Miguel Ohnesorge, “Pluralising measurement: Physical geodesy's measurement problem and its resolution” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 96 51-67, 2022

Committee:

Alisa Bokulich, Hasok Chang, Daniel Mitchell, and Wendy Parker

2020

Mathematics as a tool of conceptual innovation in physical theory and/or experiment, 1780-1890

Winner:

Joshua Eisenthal, "Hertz's Mechanics and a unitary notion of force” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 90 226-234. 2021

Committee: 

Janet Folina, Doreen Fraser, Lydia Patton and Sheldon Smith

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2019

How matter acts on matter: unsolved problems in the philosophy of physics, 1700-1760

Winner:

Adwait Parker, “Newton on Active and Passive Quantities of Matter” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 84 1-11. 2020

Committee:

Katherine Brading, Mary Domski, Andrew Janiak, Chris Smeenk, and George Smith

"Physics is an immense building that surpasses the powers of a single man. Some lay a stone there, while others build whole wings... still others survey the plan of the building, and I, among them."

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